Home » NEWS » Queensland is now innovation hub, says state’s Chief Entrepreneur Mark Sowerby


QUEENSLAND now has the second-highest number of start-ups in the country with regional areas leading the entrepreneurial push, according to the state’s Chief Entrepreneur Mark Sowerby.

Mr Sowerby, who has just returned from a tour of regional and country areas with other leading entrepreneurs including the Shark Tank’s Steve Baxter, said 19.3 per cent of all start-ups now hailed from Queensland.

The Blue Sky Alternative Investment founder said Queensland was now the most entrepreneurial state in Australia, even though the most populous state New South Wales still led the country with 40.9 per cent of start-ups.

“There is now a tsunami of start-ups in Queensland,” Mr Sowerby said. “We have now overtaken Victoria in terms of the number of start-ups.”

He said the recent four-day tour took in Goondiwindi, Emerald, Rockhampton, Charters Towers, Longreach, Mount Isa, Lockhart River, Cairns and Mackay.

The tour covered 6521 km, substantially more than the 5000km originally calculated.

“The people in these communities now realise that you can turn nothing into something and ideas into something,” he said.

The tour attracted 1300 budding entrepreneurs, aged from six to 70, and included gluten-free bakers, innovative beef cattle farmers, high school social entrepreneurs and even a club of under-ten-year-old ‘kidpreneurs.”

“There were kids selling us T-shirts and beads,” Mr Sowerby said of the tour which included panel discussions and mentoring sessions. “They had even worked out their profit margins.”

Mr Sowerby, who grew up in western NSW, said the success rate of start-ups in regional areas was higher than in metropolitan areas because country people had to work harder for success.

“Entrepreneurs in regional areas have more hurdles to overcome and are used to uncertainty,” he said. “They don’t know when a drought is going to end and don’t have everything mapped out.

“Each town seems to have its different flavour. Goondiwindi has a lot of agribusiness entrepreneurs while Cairns is very strong on software developers.”

Mr Baxter, who is the founder of Brisbane-based incubator River City Labs, said the trip was a chance to give back to regional Queensland and return to some of the towns he had grown up in. Mr Baxter was born in Cloncurry and raised in Emerald.

Others on the tour included Rockhampton’s Patrice Brown, who won last year’s entrepreneur award in the Telstra Business Women’s Awards and WeAreHunted co-founder Stephen Phillips, who was born in Charters Towers. The WeAreHunted online music platform was acquired by Twitter in 2012.

A report by KPMG demographer Bernard Salt last week said the Sunshine Coast was recognised as one of Australia’s leading start up regions with the Spark Bureau, a start-up incubator, in operation since 2015.

Part of the growth was being led by ‘second-generation CEOs’ – baby-boomer retirees still keen to put their money and skills to work.

Jarryd Townson, founder of Mackay’s innovation hub Split Spaces, said there was incredible enthusiasm at the Mackay event.

“Mackay is still buzzing after the visit. Having the opportunity to talk with some of the state’s most successful entrepreneurs has inspired the region to kick into overdrive, and to further connect and develop our ecosystem,” Mr Townson said. “We have a lot of inspired people reaching out to Split Spaces to get connected.”

Mr Sowerby said he had met more female entrepreneurs than males on the tour, reflecting the importance of gender diversity in developing new businesses.

He added that privately-held companies, and private equity funds, were expected to lead investment in the Australian economy over the next decade, following the trend in the US.